New Zealand to provide free sanitary products in schools to fight period poverty

Nearly 95,000 girls in the country aged nine to 18 are thought to stay home from school during their periods due to not being able to afford pads and tampons, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

“By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school,” Ardern said.

The New Zealand government is investing NZ$2.6 million ($1.7 million) in the initiative, which will be first rolled out at 15 schools in the Waikato region of the country’s North Island during term three of this year. The program will then expand nationwide to all state schools by 2021.

But several studies have exposed that period poverty impacts millions of people in the world’s richest nations, including the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

A health and well-being survey from New Zealand-based Youth19 found 12% of students in Year 9 to 13 (ages 12 to 18) who menstruate reported difficulty accessing sanitary products due to affordability. And around one in 12 students reported having missed school due to lack of access to sanitary products.

“Menstruation is a fact of life for half the population and access to these products is a necessity, not a luxury,” said New Zealand’s Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter.

Unable to afford or access sanitary products or manage basic menstrual hygiene, girls across the world instead resort to using rags, old clothes, newspapers, hay, sand, or even ash, according to Unicef and other aid organizations.

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